Strange Geographies: Portugal's Bone Chapel

I spent a few weeks in Portugal during the spring of 2006, and one of the most striking things about its many churches and chapels and religious monuments was, well, how dark they were. Not literally -- there was plenty of light. But it seemed like every statue of Christ was weeping blood, and every church had a display case of gruesome relics in the foyer; a saint's pickled eyeballs here, a toe with dessicated skin still clinging to it there. But of all these monuments to pain and death, nothing could match the Capela dos Ossos -- the Chapel of the Bones. Located next to the Church of St. Francis in the medieval town of Evora, it's a large room decorated with the bones of more than 5,000 monks, exhumed from local churchyards to be used as building materials way back in the 16th century.

As you enter, you pass under this doorway. Its inscription, translated from the Portuguese, means "We bones here, for yours await." Nice and creepy.
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According to legend, the 16th century Franciscan monk who created the chapel did it not to freak people out or scare them, but to prod visitors into a spirit of quiet contemplation. "Life is fleeting!" the bones are meant to imply. "See?!"
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On the other side of the doorway, as you exit, is this cheerful little motif, restored in 1810.
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The monks who built the chapel got creative with their bones, using them not just to fill wall space, but to create all sorts of decorative patterns. It's more or less what I imagine a Martha Stewart Halloween special would be like.

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Not everyone who visits the chapel is inspired to contemplate the mysteries of death, however, judging from the many graffiti-inscribed skulls that line the walls. Ana Gomes, I hope someone writes on your skull when you're dead.
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As an added bonus, the monks decided to hang two corpses on the wall from a chain -- that of a woman and a child. They've been there for hundreds of years, and they don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. No one is sure exactly who the unlucky pair are, but rumor has it they were cursed by a powerful man and were refused burial in local cemeteries. (That doesn't explain how they died, though; methinks it was not of natural causes.)

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The strangest part about the Chapel was that it didn't seem all that creepy. There was something sanitized and touristy about the whole thing, with ropes sectioning off the walls so you couldn't get too close, and an information kiosk just outside the door. I nearly forgot that I was walking around the house of 5,000 corpses.

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Check out more Strange Geographies columns here.

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ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
Look Closely—Every Point of Light in This Image Is a Galaxy
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Even if you stare closely at this seemingly grainy image, you might not be able to tell there’s anything to it besides visual noise. But it's not static—it's a sliver of the distant universe, and every little pinprick of light is a galaxy.

As Gizmodo reports, the image was produced by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, a space-based infrared telescope that was launched into orbit in 2009 and was decommissioned in 2013. Created by Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) and Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS), it looks out from our galaxy toward the North Galactic Pole, a point that lies perpendicular to the Milky Way's spiral near the constellation Coma Berenices.

A close-up of a view of distant galaxies taken by the Herschel Space Observatory
ESA/Herschel/SPIRE; M. W. L. Smith et al 2017

Each point of light comes from the heat of dust grains between different stars in a galaxy. These areas of dust gave off this radiation billions of years before reaching Herschel. Around 1000 of those pins of light belong to galaxies in the Coma Cluster (named for Coma Berenices), one of the densest clusters of galaxies in the known universe.

The longer you look at it, the smaller you’ll feel.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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iStock
Unwind With 10 Hours of Soothing Ocean Footage From BBC Earth
iStock
iStock

The internet can be a stressful place at times. Do yourself a favor by taking a break from the endless barrage of content to focus on the tranquil beauty of nature. The video below, spotted by Motherboard, features 10 hours of peaceful oceanscapes, courtesy of BBC Earth.

Unlike BBC's usual nature documentaries, which almost always include narration, this footage is completely human-free. There are no voices, no music, and no graphics. Instead, you'll find leisurely shots of whale sharks, schools of hammerheads, sailfish, and sea turtles drifting through the open ocean to a soundtrack of sloshing water.

Even if you don't have time to watch the whole 10 hours, just a few minutes of sitting in front of the meditative footage is probably enough to refresh your brain. Just don't be surprised if a few minutes quickly becomes an hour (or a few).

And if 10 hours of relaxing video still isn't enough for you, we recommend checking out some Norwegian slow TV. "Shows" include footage of a sea cruise, a train ride, and migrating reindeer.

[h/t Motherboard]

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